The agreement by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalize relations with Israel bodes well for the future of Israel and the dangerous region in which it lives. Pictured: Israeli and UAE flags line a road in Netanya, Israel on August 16, 2020. (Photo by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
The agreement by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalize relations with Israel bodes well for the future of Israel and the dangerous region in which it lives. It was not the first such agreement — there were peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) — but it will probably not be the last. It is likely, though not certain, that other Gulf nations may follow. Even the president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, has "hinted at the possibility of peace talks with Israel." In any event, he has not precluded eventually joining other Arab countries in normalizing relations with Israel.
Although the Palestinian leadership opposed the deal — it always opposes everything — it too may benefit from it. The UAE will press for a two-state solution and its voice will be more influential both in the United States and in Israel. A two-state solution that assures Israel's security would require a demilitarized Palestine with an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and territorial swaps that keep the current settlement blocks as part of Israel. This would allow for a contiguous, viable Palestinian state that could thrive if it maintained peace with Israel. The Palestinians could secure such a state if they agree to negotiate with Israel over the current Trump plan that is now on the table.
The deal makes clear that the Palestinian leadership no longer has a veto on the actions and attitudes of its Arab neighbors, who will do what is in their own best interest. It has also become clear that strengthening ties with the militarily, technologically and economically powerful Israel is the best protection against the dangers posed by an Iran that for decades has been seeking to have its own deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
Most US Democratic Party leaders including presidential candidate Joe Biden and his vice-presidential pick, Kamala Harris, have praised the deal. One of the very few prominent Americans who belittled the agreement, nevertheless, was Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy adviser to former President Barack Obama, who was instrumental in making the terrible deal with Iran that essentially green-lighted the mullahs' quest for a nuclear arsenal. Ironically and perversely, it was the pro- Iranian policy of Obama and Rhodes that contributed to the fear that drove the UAE closer to Israel. The Emirates know that Israel will never allow Iran to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, no matter what it takes to stop them. For the rest of the world — including the US— a nuclear Iran is a regional diplomatic problem. For Israel, it is an existential threat. For the Gulf States, it poses a serious threat to their regimes.
The deal, however, is more than "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." The UAE will derive many benefits from closer relationships with the Middle East's most stable and advanced country. These include economic and technological partnerships, military and intelligence sharing, mutual tourism and better relationships with the US and much of the rest of the world.
The deal also demonstrates how quickly changes occur in this volatile part of the globe. It was only a few decades ago when Israel's strongest allies were Iran and Turkey, and its most intractable enemies were Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states. Now the reverse is true. The only constant constructive element in the region is a democratic Israel, with its close ties to the United States.
The other constant — but a destructive one— has been the Palestinian leadership. They constantly say no to everything that involves normalization with Israel. This stance goes back to the 1930s, when they rejected the Peel Commission recommendation that would have given them a state in the vast majority of the British Mandate. But because it would also have given the Jews a tiny, non-contiguous state, the Palestinians said no. They wanted there not to be a Jewish state more than they wanted there to be a Palestinian state. This naysaying approach continued in 1948, 1967, 2000 and 2008. It continues today with their refusal even to negotiate over the Trump peace plan. As Abba Eban once put it: The Palestinians can't take yes for an answer and never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But the UAE can take yes and does not miss opportunities. The rest of the Arab world should follow. Maybe then the Palestinian leadership will realize that they, too, should sit down and negotiate a full peace with the nation state of the Jewish people.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, Skyhorse Publishing, November 2019. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.